tv The Last Word MSNBC August 15, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
the planet says president obama is right about taxes. rick perry says obama's wrong about that and everything else, and penn jillette is here with why rick perry is wrong about god. >> let me tell you when i'm in, i'm in all the way. >> we're going to be spending a lot of time with rick perry over the next couple of months. >> we know rick perry is michele bachmann's new challenger, but what do we know about rick perry? >> people are trying to figure out who exactly is rick perry. >> people are disconcerted about the religiousness of his campaign. >> he told me he had no interest in running for president. >> his big idea is almost everything the federal government does is unconstitutional. what he said was social security is a ponzi scheme. >> he's got to go out there and beat somebody in iowa. >> rick perry mitt romney's worst nightmare? >> i hope i'm not anybody's worst nightmare. >> mitt romney is campaigning in new hampshire. >> go up to new hampshire and knock off mitt romney. >> might as well with legos. >> i'm a real person. >> for bachmann it's all about iowa, iowa, iowa.
>> here in waterloo, waterloo, waterloo. >> they have good hair. >> he's an attractive candidate. >> last word favorite tim pawlenty is out, lawrence o'donnell responds. >> the official position of this show is tim pawlenty will be the nominee. >> pawlenty's out. >> i'm from a small state. >> it was time to bow out. >> i tried to read tim pawlenty's book, it was one of the worst experiences of my life. >> and president obama gets a boost from a billionaire class trader. >> i think you're less wealthy than warren buffet. >> we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. >> some type of parody is only fair. >> he pointed out he pays a lower tax rate than anybody in his office. >> my friends and i have been coddled long enough. >> he couldn't be more spot-on. >> time for the games to stop.
good evening from new york. well, all of a sudden the republican presidential primary race has gotten really, really interesting. and since interesting has an inverse relationship to frontrunner mitt romney, that could only mean the republican party must have a new presidential frontrunner, and indeed, it does, kind of. texas governor, rick perry. first, a somewhat sad housekeeping note. for those playing at home, you can cross out tim pawlenty's name. he dropped out after a third place finish in the ames, iowa, straw poll. more about this in a bit. michele bachmann won the straw poll with over 4,800 votes. out of nearly 17,000 cast. she squeaked out a victory over ron paul by 152 votes, however, her first place finish has led the media to declare bachmann a real contender. for the republican nomination.
blogger andrew sullivan noted her vote total was roughly equal to the number of people that visited his blog that hour. but the real realignment in the republican race came with rick perry's presidential announcement on saturday. quick primer on perry, he served lieutenant governor to george w. bush starting in 1998 and assumed the governorship after bush became president. he was elected to full terms in 2002, 2006, and again this past november. he's run ten races and never lost a single one. the late, great, molly ivins, who claimed for george w. bush -- if american was only governed like texas, america would be a lot more like texas, which for perry could be a good thing. here's perry making the case in south carolina on saturday. >> we have led texas, based on some just really pretty simple guiding principles.
>> we have led texas based on some pretty simple guiding principles. one, is don't spend all of the money. [ cheers and applause ] you know, two, is keeping the taxes low and under control. three is you have your regulatory climate fair and predictable. four, is reform the legal system so frivolous lawsuits don't paralyze employers trying to create jobs. [ applause ] . over the years, we've followed this recipe to produce the strongest economy in the nation. >> paul crumb dismantled the the myth in the new york times today. it's true texas entered recession a bit later than the rest of america, mainly because the state's still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008. also, texas was spared the worst
of the housing crisis because it turns out to have surprisingly strict regulation mortgage lending. despite all of that, from mid twait 2008 onward, unemployment soared in texas just as it did almost everywhere else. 8.2%, that's slightly lower than the national average, but it's worse than 25 other states, including, and i have not seen this noted anywhere else lately, including every single one of texas's neighboring states, louisiana, arkansas, oklahoma, and new mexico. in fact, if presiding over a local commodity boom is the best well, jack dalrymble should be your guy. joining me now is jim hightower, former agricultural commissioner of texas, and erica greider, for many this is their introduction, rick perry, of course, you ran against perry in his first successful statewide race, he
beat you, how did he beat you and what did you learn from it? >> actually, chris, it wasn't he who beat me, it was carl rove. he recruited perry to switch parties from the democrats to the republicans in order to run against me. the chemical lobby and other special interests were offended in our state that i had promulgated pesticide regulations to help the family farmers an help the consumers to help farm workers. so they were out to get me. and karl rove basically sent perry to west texas to roam around from one county farm bureau meeting to the next to get him out of the way while he put $3 million in to one of his patented negative campaigns to come after me. he being karl rove. the significant thing about perry is he has become a formidable campaigner, but not
anything really when you probe it all that strong. for example, he won't re-election last year as a governor of texas. he's now bragging about that across the country saying, see, i went sweeping victories. what he doesn't tell you is we had the lowest turnout in america. 33% of the people of texas voted in that election. he's the choice of 18% of the people of the people of texas. >> 18% still gets him the governor's house, right? >> it does. because the democrats refuse to run as democrats and therefore could not get 19%. that's the pathetic tale here. >> erica, you have covered perry for a while. you wrote an interesting piece on your website saying don't -- to coin a phrase, misunder estimate this guy. he's been beating expectations. what's the source of his appeal, his ability to win every race he's been in. >> to use another phrase from george w. burks i think he
benefits from the soft bigotry of low expectations. despite his victories he's notched over the last 25 years in state politics, people consistently think he fluked his way this to office and managed to get there through a string of dumb luck and coincidences. i don't see the support for that. even in the most recent election. >> if that's not the case, what's he good at? it looked like he was facing a primary challenge from a well-known, popular politician, kay bailey hutchison. he survived. what is the source of his strength? >> i guess this goes to hightower's point. i think democrats have struggled to rustle up candidates against him partly because of the strength as a campaigner. and people expected kay bailey
won state-wide office before and was considered popular more so than perry at times. i think he has a good sense of what he needs to do to win with. he's focused on his message. he raises a lot of money. god on the stump. he has good retail politics skills. we will see that in the next few weeks and months. his political skills are underestimated. >> jim, i'm going to ask you a question that i think i know what you think about it but i want to hear your thoughts on whether texas is indeed a model economy and state that we should want to emulate at the national level? >> well, perry calls it the texas miracle. that miracle has profited corporations and the rich in our state extremely well, but if you are a regular american, if you are a regular texan, a worker person, this is not the kind of economy you are going to enjoy. for example, perry talks about all the jobs he's created.
what he doesn't mention is those are jobbettes, not real job withes. in his ten years as governor he's created more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined. he's managed to create a state in which we are number one in the number of children and the number of families without health coverage. we are number one in the wage gap between the rich and the poor. we are number one in the most regressive tax system in the country. we are number one in the number of toxic releases from industrial plants and chemical factories in our state. we are number one in the things that we ought to be number 50 in and we are 50 in the things we ought to be number one in. >> erica, what part of the perry record you think will cause him the most trouble politically. not in terms of the general election but the primary or the general, all the way through.
what will he have to counter as he goes forward in the race? >> on the primary side, i would cite two things. we are seeing him attacked from the right, which is interesting given the perception that perry is a far right zell lot himself. we have seen him attacked on gay marriage because perry said he would be in favor of a federalist approach to it and we have seen him attacked on a moderate on immigration. he will face these attacks from the right for more conservative candidates than he is. i think also in the primary he will have to change his message on jobs a little bit. what he's done in texas i think worked for texas. that's a debate people can have but it has resulted in job creation, but it is not in scale to other states or the nation as a whole. this involves a lot of jobs being from other states and jobs that are tied to things that are texas focused, manufacturing, energy and so on. >> i thought it was interesting in the column he said a certain
amount of the job growth is successfully luring jobs from another state, which is a zero sum strategy and may make you a popular governor but as a president does not amount to a job strategy. what do you think will be the hardest part of his record going forward? >> i think it is his corporatization. he is george w. bush without the intelligence and ethics. he is completely wedded to the corporate powers. 200 corporate interests have put more than $100 million in his to his campaign over the last decade. that's at&t, coke brothers, that's exxon mobil, every special interest you can imagine. and this is who the guy really is. he flirts with this kind of tea party extremist thing, and on that side he is michele bachmann with a better hair' do. so he has that side of it but at
his core, who he loves and who loves him are the corporate powers and that's the kind of presidency he would bring to america. >> jim hightower, author of the highf hightower low down. thank you for joining me. appreciate it. >> thank you. joining me now is matthew iglesias, a fellow at the center for american progress. how are you doing. >> good. good to be here. >> so you did your proper home work this weekend and read rick perry's book "fed up." you summarize his deal on social security like this, according to perry, social security is by far the best example of a program violently tossing aside any principles. how do you think that will play on the stump? >> i think it will be tough. if you read this book, it's much less boring than a conventional campaign book but radical.
it paints the picture of a candidate that would be the most conservative dins since barry goldwater and someone who thinks the majority of the federal government's activities are unconstitutional that means social security, medicare, all regulation of banks. it means all kind of environmental regulations and federal involvement in education. it's a bracing far right states rights track. i was a little surprised to see from someone who has national political ambitions. >> here's him defending this on the stump on sunday in eu iowa. do we have the quote about entitlement? >> i know our friends on the democrat side are going to jump and say those bad old mean republicans. they are going to take away social security and medicare. no, we're not. but we are going to make sure the next generation is taken care of and the next generation does, in fact, have the security that they know they can have in
this country. >> now, this gets -- i was talking to someone from texas politics today. they said the most searing thing about perry is he is able to take extreme positions and when people nail them he rigles away from them and this clip struck me like this. >> he seemed to be walking away from previous statements there. he is talking about security. it is right there in the book you quoted on the show, a violent break with the founding principles of the country. he said in the book we shouldn't have direct election of senators, we shouldn't have income tax at all. >> he said we should have no direct election of senators. >> he does. >> that is alan keyes special. >> yeah. he's tracing the klein of the institutional order and says it all goes back to the wilson administration and the 16th and 17 amendments. on the stump, as best i can tell
you shouldn't underestimate him. he answers questions. he tries to come across as folksy and connect with people and he has put out these positions that are wild. >> thank you for taking your weekend with rick perry's book and thank you for coming on tonight. >> thank you. still to come tonight, tim pawlenty calls it quits. white why it says a great deal about the direction of the republican party. and the president's approval rating heads in the wrong direction and he heads out on the road. ♪ i like dat, all right [ male announcer ] mio. a revolutionary water enhancer. add a little...or a lot. for a drink that's just the way you like it. make it yours. make it mio.
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running for president of the united states. >> in order for america to take a new direction, it's going to take a new president. >> if it was obamneycare on fox news sunday, why is it not right there? >> using the term obamneycare. >> it's not her spine we're worried about, it's her record of results. if that's your view of effective
leadership with results, please, stop, because you're killing us. >> i understand what needs to be done and i'm not just going to stand up here and give you the words. you can take it to the bank. >> i'm excited about this race, we are going to win it, and it's going to start right here in iowa. >> distant third was tim pawlenty. >> i'm going to be ending my campaign for president. i brought forward an established, credible, strong record of results. the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different. >> that's boys 2 men singing out tim pawlenty. he came, he saw, and he went. on may 23 on the stage in iowa, he became the first to announce he was running for the republican nomination for president of the united states and yesterday, august 14, he became the first republican to drop out of the race. in iowa, where it all started for him. former governor of minnesota decided to exit after coming in a distant third. pawlenty had covered some 3,000 miles in iowa and spent $1.5 million in his efforts there.
his senior adviser told the huffington post that the minnesota republican wasn't willing to risk deby he would ha good president. and pawlenty said it was a great honor to run for president. i remain committed to turn this country around and electing a republican to the white house. thank you. of course, as you know, it was the belief on this show that tim pawlenty would ultimately be the pick of the republican nomination because he was the only candidate that didn't seem to have a fatal flaw, but pawlenty's low-key demeanor never quite gained traction. with what is shaping up to be a republican party like we have never seen before. lawrence e-mailed us his reaction to pawlenty's departure. tim pawlenty won the rational vote in iowa on saturday, but this is the year the irrational vote is controlling the republican party. i made the mistake the republican primary voters would do what they have always done and choose the safest candidate
on their ballots to send into a general election. like all candidates he had weaknesses but the candidates who beat him are defined entirely by their weaknesses. there's a clear defect in the other candidates who would prevent them from the nomination but one is going to be the nominee. pawlenty's problem turned out to be, despite all his pandering, he just wasn't crazy enough. a party that nominated campaigners like the bush and second bush, bob dole and john mccain has decided to in a irrational direction and i cannot predict the irrational. joining us now, reihan salam. why do you think pawlenty didn't do better? >> i think it is straightforward. i think romney is occupying this establishment, moderate side and then you have a bunch of people, including michele bachmann and now rick perry competing for the tea party, anti-establishment
feisty side. he wanted to be a gentle tick to the right of mitt romney but not so far he would scare off anti-establishment >> you wrote a book and it's called "sam's club conservatives." >> brand new party. >> so in the beginning you wrote an essay about this quote from tim pawlenty about being not the party of the country club but also sam's club and you identified a kind of vision of the republican party that's very different than the tea party vision that's been articulated. do you see this as -- what judgment does this render on that thesis? >> i think there are a lot of different ways to interpret it. we were saying a lot of the republican party is non-college educated, working class, a lot of folks had been buffeted
by economic change. the question is how does the republican party make their interests meet their needs, i would say the republican party has responded to them in funny ways, for example, by fighting medicare cuts tooth and nail and then saying let's impose medicare cuts in a different way. there is this kind of way that you have a whipping back and forth of recognizing we have to respond to these voters but saying we have these core ideological commitments so i think you see a party really struggling with that core thesis. >> you know, that was the most interesting insight in the book, which is a very good book and i would recommend highly. >> i agree. >> about the way the government hands off my medicare paradox gets worked through. if you see pawlenty on the stump was saying the number one message is get government off our back. it seems the rhetoric of that is trumping whatever practical feelings people have towards the concrete things they get from the state. >> i think that's totally classic, for example, pawlenty
was reluctant to embrace paul ryan's medicare plan, but wait, he also opposed reforms that would sharply reduce the amount of tax revenue to pay for a medicare system. that's tough. there are republicans that were trying to think of creative ways to do that, but tim pawlenty wasn't the right man to do that. >> do you think the nature of all primary campaigns is they tend to push the positions of the candidates towards more ideological extremes because that's where the base of the party tends to be and they have to tack towards the center. do you think the incentive structure now in the republican primary is dangerous for the general election prospects of whoever emerges from the field given the fact it seems you can't but help but go as far right as possible? >> i think republican primary voters are using straightforward heuristics, they might say in
practice they might be open to some kind of tax increase maybe, but if you say that on a debate stage, that's not a good sign as to whether or not you'll be a fighter to tax increases. >> signaling is more important, but you end up with the signal hung around your neck in the general. >> rick perry is a guy who might have all kinds of squishy moderate positions but he sounds like a conservative, he can take any position he wants to. >> reihan salam. awe tore thor and columnist of the daily beast. >> good to see you. coming up, rick perry wants to tax the poor, and you might be surprised who warren buffet wants to tax. and new polls show voters are less fond of the tea party but also less fond of the president. stay with us. [ male announcer ] these are volunteers... our neighbors putting their lives on the line. and when they rely on a battery, there are firefighters everywhere who trust duracell. so, look for these special packs
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comes from one of the richest dudes in the world, warren buffet. buffet argues in the new york times that federal tax policy does not ask enough from the wealthy. and that congress should "stop coddling the super rich." buffet reveals shocking details about his own tax bill. last year my federal tax bill, the income tax i paid as well as payroll taxes i paid was only was 6,938,744. that sounds like a lot of money but it was 17.4% of my taxable income and that's a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in the our office. their tax burdens range from 33% to 41% and averaged 36%. buffet goes on to explain that the primary reason his federal tax burden is lower than his employees is super-rich people like themselves drive much of their income from dividends and
capital gains. those are taxed at a lower rate. mega rich pay 15% on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. it's a different story for the middle class, typically they fall into the 15% and 25% tax brackets. and are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot. this has caught the attention of president obama who is in minnesota on the first stop of his bus tour today. >> warren buffet had an op-ed that he wrote today. he pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than anybody in his office, including the secretary. he figured out that his tax bill he paid about 17%, and the reason is because most of his wealth comes from capital gains. you don't get those tax breaks. you're paying more than that, and -- now, i may be wrong, but i think you're a little less wealthy than warren buffet. that's just a guess.
>> i love that phrase, less wealthy. many on the right argue increasing rates on the wealthy as buffet and the president suggest, would only hurt job creation, an argument buffet refutes, a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. you know what's happened since then, lower tax rate and far lower job creation. that fact did not deter texas governor rick perry from saying this in his saturday presidential announcement. >> we're dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all americans don't even pay any income tax, and you know the liberals out there are saying that we need to pay more. we are indignant about leaders who do not listen and spend money faster than they can print it. >> let's -- let's listen to that first part once again here. >> we're dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all americans don't even pay any
income tax. >> half of all americans don't even pay any income tax. this is a very popular conservative talking point, and i'll say this, perry is right, nearly half of all americans do not pay any income tax, but why don't they pay those income taxes? as "the washington post" points out, they are working but don't earn enough to owe income taxes based on the structure of the tax code and provisions to help the working poor and lower income seniors. so what presidential candidate rick perry implied on saturday is if we should raise taxes on anyone, it should be on the poor and elderly americans. what he did not say is these sectors, like all americans, pay taxes besides federal income taxes. according to the "washington post," they pay, leaving aside state and local sale that's pay
local sales, income and property taxes, federal gasoline and other excuse taxes and most significantly payroll taxes. everyone pays the same share regardless of income, they hit the poor hardest and then balance the progressivity of the tax code. more often than not, those payroll taxes are more burdensome than income taxes. get this, 74% of filers owe more payroll taxes, okay, than individual income taxes, including 85% of those with income below $40,000. as buffet notes, those payroll taxes are inconsequential to the wealthy, to the poor and elderly, they are quite consequential. to illustrate, let's take a look at governor perry's texas. texas is one of nine states with no state income tax. as for how other state and local taxes affect texans, think progress published this chart on the non-elderly in 2007, that's perry's seventh year as governor.
those in the lowest income bracket, those making the least amount of money, income of less than $18,000 paid the most state and local taxes as a percentage of income, 12.2%, and those in the highest income bracket, the top 1%, the wealthiest, the people making the most money with income of $463,000 or more, they paid the least amount of state and local taxes as a percentage of income, just 3%. if you think the biggest problem with america over the last decade is that there has not been enough upwards redistribution of wealth, then rick perry is your man, he's even got the record to prove it. still to come, a presidential primary becomes a run to the christian right. performer, writer and comedian who thinks we need to run in the
opposite direction will be here. penn jillette is coming up. and the kind of crowd and questions that the president an. the inspiration for a totally new yogurt. activia selects french so silky and smooth with lots of juicy fruit. then our search took us to beautiful greece and this thick and creamy greek yogurt, so rich and full of flavor. it was a grueling trip! try new activia french and greek yogurt. a world of great new tastes. sure, but let me get a little information first. for broccoli, say one. for toys, say two. toys ! the system can't process your response at this time. what ? please call back between 8 and 5 central standard time. he's in control.
membership rewards points from american express. they're a social currency. with endless possibilities. president obama faces another angry august as his poll numbers dip, turns out there's a group of politicians just down pennsylvania avenue setting their own disapproval records of the we'll tell you about them. and the role of religion in politics as perry and bachmann vie for the conservative christian vote. penn jillette is my guest. [ male announcer ] this...is the network --
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shaping up to be another angry august in america. this time it's not just the tea party with signs and bull horns, people are showing up on republicans' doorsteps demanding solutions to the current unemployment crisis. >> this is a dollar bill, come out and talk to the regular people. >> even though they are not getting a fraction of attention as tea partiers got when they disrupted town hall meetings in 2009, people from texas to wisconsin to pennsylvania are demanding what polls have long been showing they want, a focus on jobs instead of the deficit. president obama launched his rural economic bus tour through the midwest today, trying to address the rising anxiety and anger. >> there were a bunch of things taking place over the last six
months that were not within our control, but here's the thing, the question is how do we handle these challenges? do we rise to the occasion? do we pull together? do we make smart decisions? and what's been happening over the last six months and a little bit longer than that if we're honest with ourselves is that we have a political culture that doesn't seem willing to make the tough choices to move america forward. >> but the anger at washington's failure to make those "tough choices" also extends to the president. for the first time his approval ratings dipped to 39% over three days last week. averaging a 40% approval and 50% disapprove result for the week. the good news for the white house is that the tea party ask
fairing no better. last january, 27% of people thought the protest group had a positive effect, today that's down to 22%. the numbers also show the tea party has made more enemies than friends. 14% of people call themselves strong supporters of the tea party while 20% call themselves strong opponents, which leads to what i think is the single-most fascinating poll number and also the most underreported. congressional democrats have taken the lead amongst registered reporters, asked who would they vote for if elections were held today. democrats held a 7% lead over republicans, 51% to 44%, which is a wider lead than the republicans showed leading up to the 2010 house republican takeover. the best phrase to capture the country's mood these last four years is serial discontent, and it shows no signs of stopping. joining me now, deepak bhargava, director for the campaign of community change, how are you?
>> doing well. >> your group has affiliates all over the country doing grassroots work in places like iowa, detroit, chicago, new york, all sorts of communities. what are you hearing from organizers and folks on the ground about what people are feeling about the situation we find ourselves? >> well, i'm actually excited, i might be the only person in washington, d.c. these days that's excited, but there's something happening in america, and it's not the tea party, so we're seeing huge turnouts at events across the country pushing on the question of jobs against the radical proposals on social security, medicare, and medicaid, huge amounts of enthusiasm, and i think people are starting to see they can't depend on our elected leaders to solve the problems, so i'm really excited. i think there's a movement coming together in america centered around jobs. >> it was interesting to me, i went through the text of the president's speeches today, essentially gave the same speech
a few times, and it seemed much more jobs-focussed than the language we've been hearing the last two months. he announced he was going to have a new jobs plan come september. do we have that sound? there we go. >> i'll be putting forward when they come back in september a very specific plan to boost the economy, to create jobs, and to control our deficit, and my attitude is get it done. >> was this encouraging to you, what do you think about this? >> well, i definitely think the president needs to focus on jobs and we've begun to hear more from him about it. it has been very puzzling that even when it became clear that the stimulus wasn't going to do the job and get us as far as we seen large-scale substantive proposals to put millions of people back to work, and i think that's what we're waiting to see so not small bore targeted
message programs, but real substantive programs people can believe in, even if the other side won't go along, got to stand up and fight for it. >> what i was going to say is you and i both know anything substantive, anything bold, anything effective, right, is not going to have any chance in the house, so if you have an option between some small bore thing, unemployment extension, these payroll extensions, tax cuts, and going big, isn't there a practical, pragmatic argument to be made for the former? >> i think absolutely on economic grounds everybody is making the case in order to deal with the deficit problem, we have to deal with the jobs problem, so it's good economics, on the politics ground, if we're fighting on a frame of who cuts more, how fast, that's the wrong terrain to be fighting. and there's a huge untapped reservoir of popular anger, discontent, desire to see progress on the jobs program. so, yes, he would have to do some educating of the person
people, yes, he'd have to take some risk, but i think the movement is there to back him up if he chooses to go bold. >> deepak bhargava, one of the smartest people in the united states, thanks for joining me tonight. up next, penn jillette on religion in politics and his new book. vegetables? maybe not. v8 v-fusion juice gives them a full serving of vegetables plus a full serving of fruit. but it just tastes like fruit. [ male announcer ] get five dollars in money-saving coupons at v8juice.com. morning starts with arthritis pain... that's two pills before the first bell. [ bell rings ] it's time for recess... and more pills. afternoon art starts and so does her knee pain, that's two more pills. almost done, but hang on... her doctor recommended aleve because it can relieve pain all day with just two pills. this is lisa... who switched to aleve and fewer pills for a day free of pain. and get the all day pain relief of aleve in liquid gels.
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i thank you, you, oh, god, that you are literally right now, by faith, you are lighting a fire, a fire of the gospel, and that minnesota would just become a burning incense, a sweet-smelling incense of praise and sacrifice into your kingdom. >> i want you to join with me as i share his word with you.
>> after a weekend of state fair politics in iowa, the two most talked about republicans in the race are michele bachmann, who you just saw, and rick perry, who you also just saw. both candidates who have stayed -- said they were called to run for office, and both candidates who have made their faith a centerpiece of their political identities. accounting for her win at the ames straw poll, one bachmann campaign staffer told npr, bachmann's faith-based organization was over the top and the report also noted the staffer was reading a t-shirt reading "jesus is lord over america." perry, of course, quoted evangelical christians and controversy with his prayer rally in houston earlier this month. evangelicals were the hottest political story for much of the last decade, the tea party has largely dislodged them from the headlines, yet i think bachmann and perry show the base of the republican party remains defined by its commitment to a very specific christian world view.
joining me now, penn jillette, magician and author of the new book "god, no, signs you may already be an atheist!" thanks for being here. >> i would like to listen to those clips the way a dog would listen to them. weird breathy, crazy, controlled by something outside of yourself thing. that's what she's claiming. >> that's the thing, so i want to ask you about what you make of, when you see that kind of campaigning. >> well, you know, i am -- and i think this is true with so many atheists, i'm an incredible optimist. i love life and i love my family and i'm just very happy. you know, one of the basic tenets of atheism is everything in the world is enough, you don't need anything beyond this, and when i see this i'm seeing a desperation and death
throes. since 9/11, every poll has shown, whatever you want to call the non-believers, free thinkers or the hard-core word atheists, that number is going up and up and the people desperate to keep religion, especially in politics, are just clawing at stuff so we're seeing this kind of whereas when most of america was very religious and religion was on the rise, there was kind of a calm feeling about it. you're getting that kind of desperation. i mean, ten years ago the atheist was strident and the religious were very calm. now i feel very calm and they seem crazy. >> one of the things i liked about the book is it is not a very stride depth book. there's a line of books that came out, richard dawkins, sam harris, christopher hitchens, many of whom are cited in the pages. >> friends of mine. >> but they did have the kind of -- there was a
critique of this new atheism that took some of the worst formal features of religion and sort of proselytized and standing uncertainty, and you say in this book that to you atheism admits to you it means i don't know. >> is simply is i don't know. that's all there is to it. just to say when any of those questions are asked, how did we get here, why are we here, to simply say i don't know is just to say maybe no one else knows either and if you don't know, you don't believe, and there is a gentleness to it, but i think it's very similar to acceptance of the gay movement in the '60s, when one of the things you had to show was that there was real intellectual reasons and moral reasons to accept gays. that was really important, but there was also the sense of how do people people live their lives, are they normal people, are they people next door and so on, and one of the things i want to do with this book is talk about how much i love my children and how they are raised without religion but with everything else, you
know, presence around, you know, things like that, because i really thought that in terms of the intellectual, moral, and historical argument, christopher hitchens and dawkins make those things beautifully but i wanted the goofball perspective, a guy that goes in, does his show, makes jokes, does magic tricks, and doesn't have an imaginary friend. >> penn jillette, the book is "god, no!" and it's out tomorrow. >> she did sound sexy with that god stuff. it's a little sexy. >> breathy is the word. >> i was thinking sexy, but breathy is okay. >> have the last word on our blog, follow my tweets and watch my new weekend morning show on msnbc this fall. "the rachel maddow show" is up next. good evening, rachel. >> chris, i hope you will forgive me if i say away from defining the difference between breathy and sexy.